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Are some cars too quiet? NHTSA thinks so

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is targeting hybrid and electric vehicles in an attempt to increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety in the U.S. The NHTSA and safety advocates say that many pedestrian and bicycle accidents have been caused by people not hearing hybrid and electric vehicles approaching.

To make hybrid and electric vehicles safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, the NHTSA recently proposed a rule that would require these vehicles to make more noise. The safety organization proposed that hybrid and electric vehicles should be required to meet a minimum sound standard. The vehicles would have to emit a noise loud enough to alert pedestrians and bicyclists near the vehicle to help prevent accidents.

Safety concerns were raised after more pedestrian and bicycle accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles were reported. To address the safety concerns, the noise requirement was proposed for these vehicles when travelling slower than 18 miles per hour.

Despite the claims that louder hybrid and electric vehicles will increase pedestrian and bicyclist safety, some critics of the proposal question if the loudness of a vehicle really contributes to accidents. Critics say that there is little evidence that quieter electric and hybrid vehicles are more dangerous compared to nosier vehicles.

Some have suggested that the increase in pedestrian accidents involving hybrid and electric vehicles is mainly because more people are driving these types of vehicles.

Either way, the NHTSA proposal would impact future hybrid and electric vehicles sold in the U.S. The NHTSA said that the rule could prevent 2,800 pedestrians and cycling injuries every year due to the noise requirements for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Only time will tell if the proposal is passed by Congress and if it will have any impact on pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor, "Hybrids, electric cars may be too quiet, says DOT," Anthony Ingram, Jan. 9, 2013

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